Two managers have been booted out of Premiership clubs after three games of the season, and although no one is crying in the streets at the departure of Kenny Dalglish or Christian Gross, the circumstances of their dismissal speak volumes for the feverish state of the game.
Be mightily afraid, there’s a super league a-coming and damned if it doesn’t keep changing shape. One day it’s going to be a midweek league involving 16 clubs, or two divisions of 16, or 20 clubs. Then it’s going to be an invitational end of season tournament running through the close season. It might be a sealed competition with no promotion and relegation, or it might be opened up to new members after the first two years.
At the risk of prompting a wave of cancelled subscriptions, your old pals at WSC have to admit that in some respects we enjoy the World Cup more when England aren’t in it.
By the time you read this, FIFA’s congress will have elected João Havelange’s successor as president of world football’s governing body. Whether the winner is former chief executive and secretary-general Sepp Blatter, or Lennart Johansson, the head of UEFA, they will inherit an organisation changed out of all recognition since Havelange ousted sleepy old Stanley Rous in 1974.
With huge numbers of fans travelling to France without any hope of getting a ticket, the process is clearly favouring the rich and famous. Without a system change, the streets of Paris could be full of angry fans from all nations. A recipe for disaster?
You'll remember the advert broadcast before the England v Chile friendly in March. After running down a list of the qualities to be found in the England squad, the narration ended in a sneering challenge: “Come on Chile, the boys are waiting.” It could just as easily have been an invitation to a fight as a football match. As a symbol of arrogance headed for a fall (you’ll recall the result too), it was a neat example of how the build-up to this World Cup has gone.
Nothing gladdens the heart of a news editor more than a series of stories in a short space of time which can be neatly and instantly conflated into a Trend. On the weekend of March 28th-29th, football provided such an opportunity with the death of Fulham fan Matthew Fox outside Gillingham’s Priestfield stadium, the attempted assault on referee Gary Willard at Oakwell and a rather less threatening one-man pitch invasion at Goodison Park. An actual attack on a referee at a rugby league match and the felling of a linesman at Fratton Park earlier in the season were also roped to confirm the alarming new (or rather, old) development.
Lord Justice Stuart-Smith’s scrutiny of new evidence relating to the Hillsborough disaster has lead him to conclude that there was insufficient reason to reopen the inquest. Anyone involved in the aftermath of Hillsborough had their suspicions that this would happen but many of the bereaved families were still astonished when Jack Straw made his announcement to the Commons, in the process not just denying a further inquiry but seemingly preventing any further investigation whatsoever into the events of April 15th 1989.
"Bung" is a comedy word, close to bungling, an activity that generates derision, not to be taken too seriously. Bungs, as the Premier League inquiry established, are passed over in motorway service stations or transport cafes in plastic carrier bags or even, in one case, on an Icelandic trawler. It is a pity that ‘bung’ has become the standard shorthand phrase for corrupt transfer dealings in football because it trivialises an activity that can often involve huge sums of money changing hands.
Watching Nigel Martyn take an eternity over a goalkick the other day prompted thoughts about the Law of Unintended Consequences. Some years ago the tidy-minded people on FIFA’s rule-making committee decided that one of their minor rules was unnecessarily holding up play. It was the one that said a goalkick must be taken from whichever side of the goal the ball went out of play.
Strange times when you find yourself agreeing with a well-worn cliché, but there simply aren’t the characters in the game anymore. What other explanations can there possibly be for television’s continued obsession with John Burridge? Over the past 12 months he has been beamed into living rooms, firstly in the Tyne Tees region, then nationwide, sporting comedy sideburns, singing, asking Fabrizio Ravanelli if he liked fish and chips and, more recently, embracing his old mum on Match of the Day.